Just in: The Pulitzer Prize in Music goes to….

Just in: The Pulitzer Prize in Music goes to….


norman lebrecht

June 11, 2021

Tania J Leon. 2021 Pulitzer Prize. Music.

“Stride,” by Tania León, premiered on February 13, 2020 at David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center, New York City


  • John says:

    A well-deserved honor for a composer with a long and distinguished career. And nice that it comes for a work she wrote for the NY Phil, where she was new music advisor three decades ago.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    Gotta tick those boxes

    • RVS Lee says:

      Kaznowski –
      If by those boxes you mean:
      dramatic urgency
      structural clarity –
      then, hell yes, tick those boxes!
      (Brava, Tania, mi querida!)

  • Jeffrey Biegel says:

    Tania! Congratulations! It’s your time indeed! Tania is a fabulous person, musician, conductor, and professor. All of these. On a personal note, we first met in 1979 when Tania was assistant conductor to Laszlo Halacz. The first time we met was on a stage, for the first time I ever played with an orchestra. We performed the first movement of Saint-Saens’s Piano Concerto no. 2 with the Concert Orchestra of Long Island. Never forgot this, and have always reminded Tania that she was my first ‘maestra’! She was incredible. Tania Leon is globally respected, and has also been part of our beloved faculty at the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College as Distinguished Professor. She is truly deserving of this honor, and will continue to create music for many years to come.

    • V.Lind says:

      When I came to this thread, you had 3 downvotes. Given that you have essentially provided a quite openly personal memoir of your experience with this lady, I find those votes incomprehensible.

      On the rare occasions when I cast a vote either way, it is on the comment, not the subject. I believe that is the purpose of the vote matter. If one disagrees with (or wants to support) a poster on his/her specific comments, the reply function is there to address that comment.

      If one has his/her own thoughts on the original blog post subject, there is a box in which to join the conversation with one’s own thoughts.

      I enjoyed your remarks, as they are among the only ones so far (12 in before mine) to offer any specific experience of the musician in question — some show some familiarity with the winning piece — and the only one with any experience to relate. Thank you, and I added an upvote to try to balance (not enough yet) the stupidity of the downvotes.

      I would assume they are actually directed at the selection of the Pulitzer committee and not at you, and for reasons that would not bear much scrutiny. I have more respect for those who at least stated their political views, whether I agree with them or not, than for those downvotes, which implicitly denigrate the memories that you have been kind enough to share.

      You are an all too infrequent poster, but your contributions are usually among the most valuable we get. Once again, thank you for this one.

      • Jeffrey Biegel says:

        You are very kind. Tania Leon has been overlooked for a long time, and is truly a fine composer. She is very passionate about music, education and adding music to the repertoire which represents her heritage, accessible for all.

  • Simon Holt says:

    Excellent, cheering news!

  • E Rand says:

    I’m not even going to touch this one…

  • Jewel Dirks says:

    Wonderful composer! Wonderful piece! Congratulations!!

  • Peter San Diego says:

    Here’s a snippet of “Stride” in rehearsal by the NYPO prior to its premiere:

    • John Borstlap says:

      One can only have a fair impression on hearing the whole piece, but these couple of minutes seem enough to conclude it’s music that sounds very average and random.

      • RW2013 says:

        rather like the conductor.

      • Peter San Diego says:

        I agree with your first clause, not the second. If you want to hear complete works by Ms. Leon, there are other youtube selections available. I listened to one of them, “Ritmicas”, and it took some time before I warmed to it, but by the end my response was most positive.

        • Bone says:

          Thank you for the recommendation. When I judge a piece as terrible on a first listen, I like to force myself to investigate a composer’s other works before giving the offending work another try.
          Such will be the case with “Stride.”

  • La plus belle voix says:

    A fairly competent piece, trimmed with interesting if somewhat Coplandesque ideas, but rather like a house of cards in its orchestration, i.e., a tad thin on the ground. Somewhat underwhelming and more difficult to play than it should be. A far cry from the music of say, Christopher Rouse, who took the prize in 1993 for his masterful Trombone Concerto.

  • What a joke says:

    Must suck to know, both deep down and literally right at the surface, that your worthless music had nothing to do with receiving the (now sadly compromised) prize. There was now way it was going to anyone other than a black woman this year; it was just a matter of choosing one. Well, I guess they found one. Good for you. Enjoy your little ‘Purlitzer’.

    • Bone says:

      I can’t go that far, but once Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer I figured the game was over.

      • Marfisa says:

        Why? Is rap not music? Is Kendrick Lamar no good? Is the Pulitzer prize limited to classical musicians?

        • Bone says:

          Lamar is very good, but comparing rap to other types of music is rather apples to fish. The intent of rap is very different from art or even jazz music IMHO, so as pop it should not quality for an award that speaks to timeless work. I could be wrong, of course: maybe the Pulitzer recognizes quality regardless of whether or not the work in question will have future value.
          “To Pimp a Butterfly” is a much better album also. Still not Pulitzer worthy.

          • Marfisa says:

            Good answer, thank you. Boundaries are interesting places, though. The intent of a Bach cantata is very different from the intent of a Beethoven symphony … And it is hard to say now what will have future value. Time will tell.

  • E says:

    Fantastic news. Congratulations! („Tania Leon“ is the name we spoke already way back when…)

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    Does that prize have absolutely a scintilla of credibility at all these days?

  • CRWang says:

    Woman of color wins major prize. Racists Sue and Hayne must be livid!

  • Pianofortissimo says:

    Check the winners of the Pulitzer Prize for Music since 1943. Nothing impressive. Americans are is so self-righteous.

  • Couperin says:

    The Pyoolitzer for music has been completely meaningless for years now, ever since it was given to Caroline Shaw for Partita, a work so basic and boring but which was a “sensation” until some throat-singers complained that it culturally appropriated their vocal style without credit and Shaw stopped performing it. And then Ellen Reid got one for her chamber opera about sexual abuse (she’s not even a composer but calls herself a “sound artist”, I’ve played her music and worked with her, she was a notch above amateur)… And this Ellen Reid was on the committee who awarded Leon. Leon has written some very cool pieces but I’ve heard tell that some in the Philharmonic said Stride was a streaming pile of crap. Screw the Pulitzer.

  • Marfisa says:

    So far, 6 positive comments from people who know about Tania Leon’s work, and admire her as a musician and composer; 1 not so enthusiastic but informed comment; and 4 sneering negatives from the anti-woke, anti-diversity people who know absolutely nothing except that she is a woman of color.

    • E Rand says:

      trust me. I know her music. Your personal weakness of seeing everything through the prism of racial grievance causes you to make the mistake of presuming others do as well.

      • Marfisa says:

        You may be right: all the negative comments may be purely about the quality of Stride and her other compositions. I will keep a closer watch on my assumptions.

  • christopher storey says:

    One is reminded of the advice Vaughan Williams once gave to an aspiring composer : ” if ever a tune should occur to you, you must be absolutely sure to use it ! “